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THE   CHINESE   PEOPLE                  39

of the Chinese national life, a late period for an old civilization.
And in literature, one needs only to think of the lateness of the
prose epic and tale of wonder, for the Shuihu (All Mm An
Brothers) and Hsiyuchi must be considered such, and they were
certainly perfected after the fourteenth century, almost two
thousand years after Confucius and Laotse had lived and

The epic was strangely unknown in ancient China, or it was
irretrievably lost without any existing trace in literature. The
narrative poem came only in the Han Dynasty, and there were
not many of them, The drama came into popularity only with
the Mongol Dynasty in the eleventh century. Tales of imagi-
nation like the Hsiyuchi came about the same time, when the
Chinese imagination was stimulated by Buddhism. The novel
as such really had a humble beginning only in the ninth century,
had its mature development late in the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries (Ming) and reached its climax in the beginning of the
Manchu Dynasty with the Red Chamber Dream, a contemporary
and Oriental counterpart of Clarissa Harbwe. Had China's
cultural life flowered and then ended a few centuries after
Confucius as the Greek genius did, there would have been only
some fine moral maxims and folk lyrics, and certainly none of
China's great paintings, novels and architecture to offer to
the world. This sounds as if we are not watching the arrested
development of a nation that reached its full bloom in its young
Golden Age like Greece and Rome, but that we are watching
the prolonged childhood of a race that took millenniums to
reach full development, and then is perhaps still courageous
enough for further spiritual adventure*